Friday, June 09, 2006

The Omen

Remakes are all the go in Hollywood, and the date 6/6/06 must have been just too good to pass up. Plus, the world does seem a bit apocalyptical at the moment - well it does if you play some spooky music and show slides of the September 11 attacks, the loss of the Columbia space shuttle and the Indian Ocean tsunami. Which is exactly what the remake of The Omen does, in a introductory set-piece that's the only new thing about the story of the little boy Antichrist.

It's been 30 years since Gregory Peck and Lee Remick were spooked by their devil's spawn, and the above reasons are the only two I can come up with as to why someone would remake 1976's The Omen. This version has a few jump-in-your-seat moments, but it's never truly terrifying, and the cast for the most part looks bored, or in the case of Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, (the new Damien) pouty and in need of a good smack.

The Omen is virtually shot-for-shot the same as its predecessor - with mobile phones, the internet and a bit of digital photography tacked on to make it 21st century. The story concerns US ambassador to Italy Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber), who's convinced by a priest to adopt a newborn orphan boy, to save his wife Kate (Julia Stiles) the trauma of learning their own son died in childbirth. The family moves to London, where as Damien gets older, it becomes obvious he's a bit unusual. People start dying, snarling dogs take up guard around the 5-year-old, and Robert is stalked by first a priest (Pete Postlethwaite) then by a photographer (David Thewlis), intent on convincing him his son is none other than the Antichrist, here to wreak havoc and destruction yada yada yada.

I'm afraid I wasn't a fan of Liev Schreiber's performance. Gregory Peck may have been over-the-top in parts of the original, but Schreiber appears to have been doped before every scene. Stiles fares a bit better in her portrayal of a mother terrified by the unknown in her own home. As usual, the British component of the cast (Postlethwaite, Thewlis and a scene-stealing Michael Gambon) perform their roles soundly. Special mention should be made though to the casting of Mia Farrow as Mrs Baylock, the Supernanny of a Supernatural sort, who arrives without notice to protect the young Antichrist. The connotations of Rosemary herself raising the Devil's son are quite delicious, and Farrow gives the best performance of the film, all big eyes, wide smiles and dulcet tones dripping with malevolence.

As Damien, young Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick has suitably engaging blue eyes, but honestly? I've seen more devilish children at any number of suburban shopping centres. Forget the ritual knives, Damien looks like he could be disciplined by a good talking-to ("Bad Antichrist! Be nice to your Mummy!").

The Omen has some good special effects, and as mentioned, some genuine "eek!" moments, but as far as remakes go, it's uninspired. Rent the original, dim the lounge room lights and scare yourself silly instead.

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